Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) on Tuesday defended his proposal to tie a family’s welfare benefits to their children’s academic success.
“We have a three legged stool for education,” he explained on MSNBC. “One part is the school, one part the teacher, and one part the family. Probably the most important part is the family.”
“Unfortunately we have some families who really don’t care about education, who don’t care if their kids get an education or stay in school, and what we are saying is, if your kid is quitting school, not showing up, showing up at 11 o’clock in his pajamas, that’s not a prepared kid to get an education,” Campfield continued. “We need to do something to motivate these parents to see how important an education is, and unfortunately, the only tool we have left is this cash payment that we make to these families.”
Under current law, parents can lose up to 20 percent of their benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program if a child does not attend school. Campfield’s bill would increase the penalty to 30 percent and require children to make “satisfactory academic progress” in school. The TANF program is aimed at helping poor families pay for living expenses such as rent, heat, utilities and personal care items.
“Like I said, I don’t want these kids to be rocket scientists,” Campfield said. “I don’t want them to split the atom. Listen, passing a grade is not too high a standard. To say, ‘Listen, if your kid shows up at school at 11 o’clock in your pajamas, that kid is not ready for school.’ Families have to take a responsibility for having the kids prepared to go to school.”